Reinforced Concrete (RC) has been widely used in construction of infrastructures for many decades. The cracking behavior in concrete is crucial due to the harmful effects on structural performance such as serviceability and durability requirements. In general, in loading such structures until failure, tensile cracks develop at the initial stages of loading, while shear cracks dominate later. Therefore, monitoring the cracking modes is of paramount importance as it can lead to the prediction of the structural performance. In the past two decades, significant efforts have been made toward the development of automated structural health monitoring (SHM) systems. Among them, a technique that shows promises for monitoring RC structures is the acoustic emission (AE). This paper introduces a novel probabilistic approach based
on Gaussian Mixture Modeling (GMM) to classify AE signals related to each crack mode. The system provides an early warning by recognizing nucleation of numerous critical shear cracks. The algorithm is validated through an experimental study on a full-scale reinforced concrete shear wall subjected to a reversed cyclic loading. A modified conventional classification scheme and a new criterion for crack classification are also proposed.